I INTERVIEWED Owen Paterson when he was British Secretary of State to our twisted green corner. The subject was  the Battle of the Somme. Our proconsul went out of his way to impress on me that many men from the south of Ireland had enlisted in the British army at the time and “Every one of them was a volunteer”.
When I suggested that many might have signed up because they needed to earn a living,  Paterson’s tone sharpened: “The suggestion that any of these men enlisted for the sake of a job is completely bizarre, or that they went [to war] with anything but the motive that they were doing the right thing.”
 It now appears that Paterson himself may not have been doing the right thing. He is reported as having received £8,000 a month from Randox Laboratories for 16 hours’ consultancy work. That’s Randox, the firm which was awarded not one but two Covid testing contracts last year, worth close on £480 million. And did I mention that there was no normal competition for the contract  because, the British government claimed, of the urgency of the pandemic?
 When Randox were asked they said Paterson “played no role in securing any Randox contract”. And yet we hear that on April 9 last year, Paterson had a telephone meeting with Randox and the Health Minister Lord Bethell  about Covid testing. And did I mention that in a previous contract Randox screwed up to such an extent that 750,000 unsafe testing kits had to be recalled?
 “But have you no human pity?” I hear you object. “Owen Paterson’s wife took her own life, such was the pressure being put on her husband over this whole wretched consultancy thing!”
 Well, indeed. If Paterson loved his wife, her loss must have been heart-breaking. But whose fault was it that Paterson was being investigated over his lobbying activity?  The answer is, of course, Paterson, who was engaged in lobbying activity.
 It wasn’t as if he didn’t have a job already: he was an MP, which pays over £80,000 a year and is surely a full-time job. Paterson volunteered to do consultancy work for Randox and others because he wanted to do the profitable thing: swell his bank balance.
 And he nearly got away with it. Boris Johnson, a man never slow to pull a  fast one, decided that the investigative system checking out Paterson wasn’t in line with “natural justice”  (a phrase Paterson used quite a bit as well), and so Johnson called a vote in the House of Commons for his system's overhaul.
 Now you may not believe this but there are some Tory MPs with a conscience. When Johnson forced them to vote for a system overhaul that might have saved Paterson’s bacon,  they did so with heavy hearts. Meanwhile,  Boris ally and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said Kathryn Stone should resign, when her report had laid bare Paterson’s shenanigans.
  But then the British public saw that Tory sleaze was alive and well, Johnson saw that the jig was up and  Paterson left what he called “the cruel world of politics”.
 No, Victoria, no. Don’t start weeping. The word is that Johnson will be looking for ways to give  Chancer Paterson a seat in the House of Lords.
If he does, he’ll surely receive a céad mile fáilte from other refugees from that cruel world.